The currency of real networking is not greed, but generosity. — Keith Ferrazzi
If you’re an entrepreneur, you know the importance of networking. At least, we hope you do. However, ineffective networking will get you nowhere. Before we get into some of the most common networking mistakes entrepreneurs make, take a moment to determine what your objectives for networking are:
- To expand your comfort zone?
- To get more potential clients?
- To meet like-minded individuals?
- To tick it off your to-do-list?
Entrepreneurs network for many different reasons. What is yours? This will have a big impact on your networking success.
5 Common Networking Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make
- Handing out business cards. There is nothing wrong with handing out business cards but if you give it to every human you see without even talking with them, chances are you will only lose money and the probability of gaining a new client is very slim. Why? What do you do with business cards and brochures handed to you without you asking for it? You most likely throw it away. We live in an information overloaded world and unless something is of real interest to us, we won’t bother reading it. Further, the odds of your card landing in the hand of and being read by your perfect client, is even slimmer. Instead, rather start a conversation with someone and hand your card to them only when they ask you for it. This will sky rocket the success rate of this technique.
- Talking about themselves. Many entrepreneurs think networking means telling others about their accomplishments, businesses and products to generate sales. This, more often than not, just leaves the other party feeling that you are full of yourself and will try to avoid you in the future. The best way to find out if someone fits your potential client profile is to learn more about them. People love talking about themselves when presented with the opportunity. Show real interest and ask them questions to determine what their personal or business needs are. Only talk about yourself when asked to. Try it next time and see how it not only increases your success but your likeability too.
- Being distracted. Do not start a conversation with someone if you are not prepared to listen and give them your attention. People can immediately sense when they don’t have your attention, when you seem disinterested and can take it personally. When you have to leave the conversation, wait for the right moment to politely excuse yourself from the conversation.
- Sticking to their comfort zones. If you are an entrepreneur who frequently attend networking events, chances are good that you bump into people you met at previous events. Try and avoid only talking with them the whole event if you want to meet new people and clients. In general, do not stick to one conversation for too long. Politely excuse yourself mentioning that you want to network with more people. They probably also want to meet more people.
- Waiting for others to approach. Merely attending networking events can’t be classified as networking. It can be intimidating to approach a stranger but remember that most of the other attendees feel the same. Approach and introduce yourself to someone as soon as possible and keep moving around. Approaching someone after you have been standing alone for a few minutes can be worse than breaking that awkward silence during a conversation. Be proactive and keep the momentum going.
Developing strong networking skills takes time and practice. Introverts, you might feel like it will take you even longer but we have great news for you. Since networking is all about listening and letting the other person talk, your networking game might be stronger than you think. As long as you have your clear goal/s in mind and keep pushing your comfort zone, you will soon master networking.